PRE MATCH: SASSUOLO VS JUVENTUS

Following a humbling home defeat at the weekend, deposed champions Juventus visit eighth-placed Sassuolo on Wednesday evening, with maximum points a necessity.


Now with just three games left to go, both clubs are still battling for a place in Europe - the hosts being back in the race due to some fine late-season form, while Juve is in danger of missing out on a Champions League berth.


Such a no-show in a direct head-to-head for Champions League qualification could ultimately prove the final straw, however, as Pirlo's reign has lurched from inconsistency into a relative disaster of late.


Ahead of their midweek trip to Emilia-Romagna, Juventus sit fifth in the standings and may need to rely on the fact that fellow top-four contestants Atalanta and Milan must meet on the final day, with points inevitably being dropped by either one or both sides.


However, as Juve won Sunday's reverse fixture 3-1 at San Siro in January, they also now have an inferior head-to-head record with the Rossoneri: the deciding factor if the two giants end tied on points. Should the Bianconeri miss out, then, it would be inconceivable that Pirlo's tenure would continue and that Ronaldo could remain in Turin.

Though teetering on the edge of a crisis, the Coppa Italia finalists - who will face Atalanta in the cup decider later this month - can at least journey to Sassuolo in the knowledge that they have lost only one of their 15 top-flight meetings with the Neroverdi; scoring at an average of over two goals per game in that time. Not only that, but Juve also won 3-1 in this season's previous encounter between the sides.


Currently topping the Serie A form table with a magnificent haul of 16 points from the last available 18, Sassuolo is hot on the heels of an ailing Roma side, who sit just above them in the table by a margin of only two points.


While the prize for finishing seventh may be a mere spot in UEFA's new Conference League, a second-ever European qualification for the modest Emilian outfit would be a fitting reward for an entertaining campaign in which they started at a frantic pace before suffering a significant wobble in the middle.


A recent run in which his Sassuolo side has staged a sensational comeback at San Siro to defeat Milan and held second-placed Atalanta to a 1-1 draw sees them prepare for the visit of Juventus full of confidence and, crucially, looking likely to score from any one of several sources.


As there is much to play for - but with all the pressure resting on Juve's shoulders - an absorbing contest could unfold at the Mapei Stadium.


A serious off-night for the Bianconeri's attacking department on Sunday surely cannot reoccur, so they can take advantage of Sassuolo's adventurous approach






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